Friday, June 30, 2006

Jurisprudence, Redux

I have to confess myself a tad frustrated. A sad case of writer's block, no doubt vitiated by the pounds of Vicodin on which I've been chowing down following surgery, has gummed up the creative juices to the point of viscosity. I've got two lovely posts -- an appreciation of unsung Guitar God Peter "Ollie" Halsall (complete with killer primary-source quotes from Andy Partridge) and an Al Swearengen Guest Post on the intellectual vacuity of that most pointless waste of human effort, the Corporate Mission Statement -- festering incomplete, leering and taunting, in my Drafts folder.

All of which goes to explain my gratitude for the email I received from the tireless xtcfan this morning. The message provided a followup to a post that appeared in the Friendly Confines this January, in which I speculated on the stream of consciousness of an Oklahoma judge who stood accused of using a penis-pump on himself and shaving his nutsack while seated on the bench during criminal proceedings.

If this sucker doesn't write itself, then the phrase has no meaning.

When last we visited the distinguished juror, the Formerly Honorable Creek County (OK) District Judge Donald Thompson, he stood accused on four counts of indecent exposure. The Probable Cause Report in the case is a cornucopia of exquisite imagery and thought-provoking euphemism:
Juror Rhonda Blansett's expected testimony will be that during the Vomberg Trial she observed Judge Donald D. Thompson's facial expression changing in conjunction with the air noises [caused by the pump] and the movement of the judge's right arm....

Juror Sharaan Ronish's expected testimony will be that during the Vomberg Trial she heard an air pumping noise... Ms. Ronish will also testify that when she heard the air pumping noise she saw Judge Thompson's right arm tighten and flex repeatedly. Ms. Ronish described the pace of the pumping noise as starting out slow and then becoming more rapid....

Juror Ralph Jones' expected testimony will be that he observed [Thompson] looking down a lot and that he and the other jurors couldn't figure out what he was doing. Mr. Jones thought perhaps the judge was tying fishing lures, or something like that.
Yes. Or something like that. In the gigantic corpus of slang expressions for flogging the bishop, "tying fishing lures" might not be absolutely the most memorable, but perhaps in rural Oklahoma, where fly-fishing is a secular religion, it may carry more resonance.

Now Judge Thompson's trial is under way, and I'm quietly pleased to see that the affair continues to provide details that are both delectable and mortifying. One's sense of propriety and respect for decency are sorely tested by the testimony; I find it shamefully impossible to read the following without blasting a noseful of Mountain Dew all over my keyboard:
Foster further testified that during a 2002 trial, she heard the pump "during the emotional testimony of a murdered toddler's grandfather." She continued: "The grandfather was getting real teary-eyed, and the judge was up there pumping on that pump. It was sickening."
Most interestingly, I never drink Mountain Dew.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


The book's opening anecdote tells of an unnamed CIA briefer who flew to Bush's Texas ranch during the scary summer of 2001, amid a flurry of reports of a pending al-Qaeda attack, to call the president's attention personally to the now-famous Aug. 6, 2001, memo titled "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US." Bush reportedly heard the briefer out and replied: "All right. You've covered your ass, now."

-- From "The Shadow War, In a Surprising New Light," a review of Ron Suskind's The One Percent Doctrine by Barton Gellman, in the Washington Post

We are not (yet) privileged to know what happened immediately after this demonstration of bovine stupidity and bullying churlishness toward the hired help -- so utterly in keeping with what we already know of Bush's lifelong sense of patrician entitlement and contempt (born of incapacity) for hard mental labor. The mind's eye can't help but conjure up that smirk, that shoulder-shaking little chortle, the abruptly turned back, the quick return to the game of pool that the hapless briefer had so rudely interrupted with his importuning that the President of the United States, deep in the cloudy comfort of his Crawford vacation, actually move himself to fulfill the duties he had been elected appointed to perform.

It's also not particularly difficult to imagine a CIA briefer leaving the scene of his humiliation, vowing to bring down the revoltingly stupid little bully-boy by whatever means presented themselves. Ron Suskind has provided an admirable opportunity.

Bush's pissy insult stands like the pile of puppy-shit on the living-room carpet in which History will rub his stubby little nose for a thousand thousand years. In the fullness of time, "All right. You've covered your ass, now," will be branded on his forehead, and on the forehead of every vizier, camp follower and sycophant that hitched a wagon to his blank, moribund, lightless star.

The Truth Will Out

Pumping gas this morning. The pump opposite mine is being used by a man whose very cute little son, perhaps four years old, is taking the opportunity get into the sorts of things with which four-year-olds have bedeviled their fathers since the Dawn of Time: picking up cigarette butts, groveling in a mud-puddle, investigating the contents of the trash bucket. Dad upbraids the boy when he seems headed for a nice wallow in a pool of oily water: "Hey! Leave that alone!"

I'm leaning on my crutches as I wait for my tank to fill. The boy sees me, is suddenly fascinated by my evident cripplehood. "Hey, Dad!" he enthuses, "That guy's got crutches, just like Grandpa when he hurt his leg!"

"Yes," replies Dad, wishing the topic hadn't come up quite so clearly within earshot of its subject. "Maybe he hurt his leg too, like Grandpa."

"Yeah, maybe. Or maybe he just got a little old..."

From the mouths of babes. I laughed uproariously, and told the kid he was exactly right. I didn't hurt my leg. I just got a little old.

I'd have bought him a Slurpee if that sort of thing were still done. Honesty is a virtue affordable only to the very young -- and, of course, to the very old.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Shake Out Your Shoes

Snakes, Bugs and Spiders Week continues here at Jingo Acres, with the news that the father of one of my son's friends was bitten a few days ago by a Brown Recluse spider.

Common knowledge informs us that the bite of the Brown Recluse is a one-way ticket to horror, devastation, plague and pestilence, with emailed photos circulating of the most lunch-unsettling variety. However, cooler heads inform us that the horrifying necrosis of the skin that the spider's bite is reputed to cause is actually quite rare, and most victims of the little beastie get off with a little red mark that heals without event.

In my son's friend's father's case, he was working in an enclosed area, felt a little tickle on the elbow, and brushed it away without more thought. He sensed a mild stinging that resolved to a whitening of a rather large area on the elbow. He reported to a local clinic, where they diagnosed the spider-bite, put him on oral antibiotics and sent him home. A day or two later, he spiked a fever and the bitten area worsened. I don't know if he's done it yet, but his loved ones were urging him to go to the hospital, where the expected treatment will be intravenous antibiotics.

He is fully expected to live. About the worst he can expect is a nasty scar, but the fact that he's receiving competent treatment will go a long way to preventing even that.

Oh -- and I saw another baby snake in the garage last night, this one unambiguously a Northern Ringneck, a completely harmless -- cute, even -- hunter of "insects, earthworms, small snakes, small lizards, salamanders and frogs. It usually swallows its prey whole, but may also use partial constriction." My kinda guy.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Nineteenth-Century Cool

I have every intention of dying at Jingo Acres.

This thought is not intended as morbid; by it I simply mean that I wish never to move to any other house. I love the place, I love the way it combines hoary rusticity with lovely understated contemporary flair. I love the grounds, I love performing the upkeep on it, I love the garden, the orchard, the breezy screened porch and its wraparound view of a cathedral of green, the songbirds, the butterflies.

So unless something terribly untoward happens, I will cling to the place as long as I can possibly keep it up. If all goes as planned, then, it will never fall to me to have to sell it; with any luck, that task will go to the executors of my estate.

It will not be my problem, then, that the one, single Tragic Flaw of Jingo Acres will appreciably lessen its resale value. For you see, for all its amenties, its wonderfully well designed kitchen, its plantings of native Virginia fauna flora [oy! Vicodin!] in the front beds, its honey-colored bare-wood mouldings and windowframes, its ample closet and attic space -- Jingo Acres lacks central air-conditioning.

In all but the worst heat of the summer, an attic fan, combined with ceiling fans in most of the rooms, cools the house as well as any heat-pump you could wish for. Wisely planted trees shade the southern exposure, keeping the sun's heat off the roof. Only in the last few days of this waning June, as the really hot weeks come on, have we needed to resort to the window-units we keep in reserve.

Last night I sat and watched TV in the den, basking in the coolness of the room. The day had been one of the first truly miserable scorchers of the summer, the sort of weather in which the legendary Washingtonian humidity causes a body to come out in a muck-sweat that never dries. Toenail-fungus weather. Crotch-rot weather. Heat that only an anaerobic microbe could love. I wore only pyjama-pants and a t-shirt, all deliciously loose, air-flowing cotton. Bare feet. A glass of cold wheat-beer, its own sweat soaking the coaster-napkin to the point of disintegration, sat on the table.

I stepped out onto the porch to look at the night before going to bed. The glass door from the cabin was nearly opaque from the hundreds of country moths that battered against it, begging to come in and dash their brains out against the one light left burning inside.

The coolness of the night was a revelation. Yes, it was still humid and muck-sweaty, but the air, now at eleven in the evening, had cooled -- and this coolness was so much more alive than the dry, modern, silent coolness I'd just left. This coolness was alive with night-sounds, night-smells, the redolence of mud and mold and falling dew, with the muted racket of insects and frogs and birds. Breezes stirred the leaves of the walnut over my head, brought wafting in other, more distant night-noises: a dog barking a mile away, a car crunching on the gravel road, an owl far off up the mountain.

This, it struck me, was exactly the coolness that, years ago, was a grateful reward for a day's labor in stifling and relentless heat, in starchy clothing, in dusty fields and smoky forges and deafening manufactories and muddy stockyards and windowless, dark, choking work-spaces. The sort of respite that was longed for during the workday: Lord, please let this day be over. Please, God, bring on the night.

This was what city-people worked so hard for in the days before air conditioning, what laborers strove to earn: just enough scratched-out recompense, just enough extra whipout, to buy a ticket to the mountains, to the breezy beach in July, so as to enjoy the very thing I now consider utterly routine, a birthright: a little bit of coolness at night. In tenements packed to the rafters with workers, mattresses were spread on every fire-escape on every street in every city in the world, entire families in their night-clothes spread-eagled in the humid dark hoping for the blessing of a whisper of a breeze, dreaming, when they could dream, of a day when they could afford surcease from the heat.

Billions of us still operate under this calculus of cool. Billions still long for sundown when the evening zephyrs begin to promise a temporary respite from the daylight's cruelty. Billions still spread bedclothes on rooftops and porches and verandas, to catch a breeze in which to sleep. I have no real wish to join them -- my air-conditioned privilege, my rigidly controlled little 72-degree pleasure-dome, is far too comfortable to give up voluntarily. But here in this box, this tightly sealed, antiseptic ecosystem, I can't help feeling that I've unlearned a hard lesson that my ancestors knew only too well, and for this I am mightily sorry.

That Crawleth Upon the Ground

While bustling about this morning (as much as one can bustle on crutches) I happened to cast a glance at my sandal lying on the floor of the foyer. Lying athwart the shoe was what I first interpreted as a loose shoelace. My interpretation, however, had to be rapidly revised when the shoelace gave a little writhe, and a tiny little forked tongue darted out its front end:

I darted for my camera, which I happened to have handy, and then called the rest of the family to come admire our visitor, which was about the girth of a standard pencil, though about twice as long. It occurred to me that the little beastie looked an awful lot like a tiny little copperhead (a quite venomous local hazard), so I warned the children back, telling them to hold the dogs, and hobbled over to the laptop in the kitchen. It took me no time to determine that our guest was not a copperhead after all, but an infant Eastern Milk Snake, a harmless -- indeed, beneficial -- hunter of small rodents and insects. As I came back into the foyer, I found that Wonder Woman, who is utterly fearless with bugs and spiders, had gently scooped up the serpent, cooing endearments to it the while, and taken it outdoors and deposited it in a shady place in the front beds.

Glad she waited until it was, you know, safe.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Us and Them

I got my dark sunglasses,
I got for good luck my black tooth.
I got my dark sunglasses,
I'm carryin' for good luck my black tooth.
Don't ask me nothin' about nothin',
I just might tell you the truth.

--Bob Dylan, Outlaw Blues
I want to publicly thank The Viscount for two things.

First, to help me through my convalescence he very kindly sent me a copy of John Lennon: Imagine, the 1988 film directed by Andrew Solt. Peace on you, brother.

And second, watching that film just now has presented me the Royal Road to explore something that's been on my mind for some time now. Back in late May, the NRO posted a list of what they were pleased to call "The Top 50 Conservative Rock Songs of All Time." The list was quite risible, ripping songs quite out of context, taking as literal lines obviously intended ironically, and declaring sentiments expressed in the lyrics conservative on the most laughably absurd pretexts.

This list made me (and quite a few others) guffaw uproariously (and attracted Pete Townshend to come slumming in Lower Left Blogovia, to judge from comments he left with Blue Girl, Tom Watson and Lance Mannion). But it also set my brain a-ponderin': How can the right-wing mind be so utterly unconscious of irony as to lay claim to large swathes of music that is in every detail of its makeup patently, avowedly, and dedicatedly contrary to their world view, and shake their tightly clenched fannies to it?

That's not your music, the mind shrieks. Get your goddamned meathooks off it.

Partly, of course, the violence that's been done to Our Music by corporate cooptation has drained much of its original force. (That this cooptation has been done largely with in cahoots with the original artists is only more depressing.) I remember staring in mute horror at a television screen sometime in the late Eighties as the Beatles' single version of "Revolution" was employed to engender positive feelings toward Nike footwear in my lizard-brain. The daily insults to meaning in the "repurposing" of rock songs in commercials have the cumulative effect of deadening the listener's mind to any sort of passion this music may once have lit. If a sun-splashed Caribbean Cruise spot can be edited to the rhythms of "Lust for Life," Iggy Pop's anthem to kicking heroin, then fuck it. Nothing means anything anymore.

But it once meant something.
And that something is what we reflexively spring to defend when NRO stakes its grotesque claim.

And what was that something?

In the Imagine film, we are given a fascinating interchange between Lennon and Yoko (and a claque of admirers) and the liberal-turned-Silent-Majority-spokesman cartoonist Al Capp, at the Lennons' Montreal Bed-In in June of 1969. (Click to watch in a new window.) Both sides are quite obviously intensely aware that they are actors playing to ubiquitous and intrusive cameras in a staged media event, as they present their chosen roles in a set-piece that recapitulates the passionate intensity of the times.

I won't defend Lennon in this clip. He comes off as petulant and defensive, and seems a bit surprised when Capp attempts to score cheap points off vulnerabilities that a more prepared and thick-skinned public figure would have had easy (and funny) ripostes for.

But even less defensible are those cheap shots on Capp's part. Capp made his living not only as a cartoonist at the time but also as a radio commentator and campus speaker railing against the antiwar movement, portraying them as unkempt dangers to suburban workadaddy values, flouters of the eternal verities of home and hearth, hairy and disgusting trolls whose interest was not in ending a war but in the wholesale destruction of a treasured way of life. Watch Capp with this notion in mind, and his motivations become clear: His flaunting of the nude photos from the cover of Two Virgins is not an attempt at exposing some inconsistency in Lennon's antiwar argument, but simply to tar John and Yoko as sexual perverts, and render them thus ipso facto dismissable. (The fact that Capp was charged with the attempted rape of a female student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison a year later, with similar allegations from at least four other campuses, makes this innuendo on his part even more nauseating.)

Does any of Capp's scapegoating sound familiar? Let's see how the GLBT folks, undocumented workers, flag-burners -- and, naturally, their defenders, feel about it!

Lennon, in a time when artists and activists reached for the Dada values of shock and black humor in the service of awakening bourgeois apathy -- a time, that is, when levitating the Pentagon and other deliberately insane acts seemed to make perfect sense in a war-hungry country gone mad -- made a conscious decision to play the public Holy Fool to promote an unarguably laudable cause. Whatever you may think of Lennon's public antics at the time (and some of them, let's be honest, were downright embarrassing -- "imagine no possessions" coming from one of the world's richest men!) you can't argue with their sincerity.

But Lennon's Holy Foolery didn't just spring fully formed from his forehead one day in 1968. To play the Holy Fool to inspire human liberation is to embody absolutely the single founding principle of rock-and-roll. To stand in front of an audience with a weird haircut and a loud guitar, wiggle your hips and go WAAAAAAAAH! into a microphone: how does that differ in any material way from trying to levitate the Pentagon? The two acts may differ in quality but they communicate exactly the same message: free yourself! The man who sat in bed in Montreal and allowed himself to be called a pervert by a neanderthal rapist is exactly the same man who, some three years before, stood in front of a screaming crowd of teenyboppers in Shea Stadium playing electric organ with his elbows, laughing to the point of tears at the glorious absurdity of the situation.

(Seriously. Watch it, especially Lennon. Best Beatles Live Performance Ever.)

This, then, is what we rush to defend as our own. This is what they must never be allowed to take away: Rock and roll frees your ass. To attempt to enlist the Holy Fool, the jibbering maniac with the guitar and the haircut, in the service of a cramped and crabbed and ugly ideology shows that you don't understand rock and roll. What's more, you will never understand it.

You might hear the beat, you might tap your toes -- but there is a jagged, bleeding hole in your mind. Go back with Al Capp, where you belong, and equate John and Yoko's Holy-Fool honesty -- their nudity, if you must -- with turpitude. You know you will, in the end. You always do.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Matt's Back!

Matt at The Tattered Coat is back from his scholarly hiatus. While we're thrilled to have his voice back in the mix, he seems to be operating under the insane apprehension that Argentina is going to take the World Cup. We'll indulge his sweet little pipe-dream for the nonce; as they say in Russian-lit circles, it doesn't matter until Pushkin comes to Shovkin.

Enger-land owe John Terry a peerage or something.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Footie

Spain's taking the whole tortilla.

All that choking talk is pretty old, and the team I watched today taking a 4-0 drubbing to Ukraine was quite capable of administering a whuppin' on Germany, Brazil, or any other powerhouse you care to name. Spain's third goal, on the controversial red-card award in the penalty box, was patent bullshit, but the fourth was as nice a football lesson as you could hope the youngsters to witness.

I'll defend this thesis to the death (or until the Spaniards choke like dogs).

Germany-Poland. Jesus. Two direct shots on goal in one second bounce off the crossbar. Heart attacks in the streets of Danzig. Looks like Poland has (have?) dodged a Howitzer shell, and then in the 90th minute -- boom. I don't know what the streets of Dortmund look like tonight, but it can't be pretty.

Missed the Saudi-Tunisia game (a recuperatin' fella has to nod off, Jimmy-Stewart-style, for a couple hours sometime during the long, hot afternoon of the soul) but I'm sorry I did.

And I get to do it all over again tomorrow: Ecuador-Costa Rica; England- Trindad & Tobago; Sweden-Paraguay. Timed that surgery just right, I did.

Monday, June 12, 2006

It's Over

OK. So there's that done!

Those of you who said the hip surgery would be far worse in the anticipation than in the actual event were absolutely right.

I was given a spinal anesthesia along with the twilight general, and waking up a paraplegic was mighty weird indeed. In the recovery room, soon after the general wore off, I felt around on my lifeless lower half to assess the damage. I was mildly interested to note that the surgeons had left some kind of sponge, or perhaps a bundle of surgical gauze, in my lap. Not until a while later, having fumbled around with it for a bit trying to remove it to throw it away did I realize that it was attached to me -- it was my once-mighty Package.

Sensation did return to it, and the rest of my lower half, an hour later, but having that utterly dead hunk of gristle affixed to my loins was pretty unpleasant.

I'm home now, trussed and iced to the gills, in the bosom of my family, crutches and painkillers at the ready. I do have a dull, persistent ache on my left side, but it's nothing my excellent friend Vicodin and I can't handle. It feels no worse at the moment than a very bad sprain. The surgeon pronounced himself quite pleased with the procedure, saying that it shows every sign of success in the early stages.

So here on the couch will I stay for the next few days. I've hobbled about a bit, testing the limits on my mobility with crutches. I've realized that after six weeks of keeping every tiny bit of weight off my left leg, my right leg is going to become a tower of muscular power. Perhaps I'll rent it out for the World Cup.

My deepest thanks again to everybody who dropped in with words of encouragement. I hope that in a very short time I will be able to get my mind off my body and thinking about other more amusing and instructive stuff that I can share with you.

Right now: Typing hurts. I will stop for now.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

A Barrel of Monkeys

Posting is going to get light over the next week or so.

The hip surgery I had been afraid of is scheduled for Monday morning. It approaches with the inexorability of a freight train. Because of this, Medical Science took me off the anti-inflammatory drug that was relieving the swelling in my hip-joint, as it has the side-effect of hampering the coagulation of the blood.

I took my last pill yesterday morning, with the result that the swelling and inflammation returned with a bullet today, rendering me a whimpering puppy by this afternoon. Med. Sci., buttonholed in his office, phoned in a Vicodin scrip for me. Now I sit in an inarticulate, unfocused fog in front of the TV. Narcotics, I've observed before, don't make you stop hurting so much as they make you stop caring that you're hurting, which is really not the same thing at all.

Folks, I don't mind telling you, this one scares me a bit. The last five years have been a run of spectacularly bad medical luck, running the gamut from kidney stones (three lithotripsies and one stent emplacement), to ass cancer (three fistulotomies and one procedure that's so new and experimental I don't even know the name of it) to a pilonidal cyst (one cystectomy -- unnecessary, it later became apparent) to a torn rotator cuff (two arthroscopies). None of them gave me the shrieking fantods as badly as this one has.

I'm always nervous before medical procedures -- who isn't? -- but this one's really pretty horrifying. No sane person would actually volunteer to let someone take what basically amounts to a Black & Decker drill with a sterilized half-inch bit and bung it four inches into their thigh and up into their femoral ball. But that's pretty much what I've done, to try to save my hip-joint. I've had plenty of time to think about it, and I've talked myself into a pretty bad place. I keep fingering the place where the incision will be made, and... Thinking.

Watching back-to-back TiVo'd episodes of House certainly didn't help matters.

Some days back, Wonder Woman roasted a chicken. If usually falls to me to carve the thing, and I began by the usual method of separating the drumstick from the thigh, and then the thigh from whatever passes for a pelvis in a bird. As the tip of my knife found the hip-joint, I gave it a twist to separate the bones. As they came apart with a little snap I'm afraid I freaked a little. Nausea. Sweat. Irrationality. Tears.

A chicken on a roasting-pan. That's what age makes you.

Boy, I'm more fun than a fuckin' narcotized barrel of monkeys, ain't I? I better get myself to bed & settle down for some kaleidoscopic eyelid movies and some Jacob's Ladder-quality nightmares. I'll feel much better in the morning.

Hey! They got Zarqawi!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


Holy shit, where'd all the Christians go?

Oh. Never mind. They were just taking a leak.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Slingin' the 'Barb

Mrs Jorgensen poses with the stalk
with which I broke the World Record in 1921.
They don't make rhubarb -- or women --
like that anymore.

From the Winona (Minnesota) Daily News:

LANESBORO, Minn. — There are hundreds of ways to cook rhubarb but only one way to throw it: awkwardly.

“You’ll want a little arch and a straight release,” Jeff Kamm said as Ashley Solsrud stepped to the line, stalk in hand. “Give it all you’ve got.”

Solsrud, of Holmen, Wis., flung the floppy stalk, which stayed aloft for about 10 feet. Line judge Dave Sefton proclaimed it “a solid two” -- about half the distance of the day’s record toss.
"Only one way to throw it: awkwardly..." Pish-tosh! I weep for the lost arts of yesteryear!

In another day, at another time far back in the dusty corridors of dimming memory, I, Hugh Jorgensen, captain of the vaunted Brainerd High School Rhubarb-Tossing Team -- the Fightin' Loons, we were styled -- made strong men tremble and beautiful women swoon with the mighty arcs of my doughty heaves of the stringy stalks of family Polygonaceae, genus Rheus.

Far they flew, and long. Far, too, and wide, did tales of my godlike prowess run. Newspapers from such far-flung climes as Bemidji and Saint Cloud vied like tomcats for nacreous mots from my cupid's-bow lips. Into the shell-like ear of a young Grantland Rice, then a cub scribe for the Detroit Lakes Aftonbladet, did fall a breathless account of my exploits contra the hated crosstown Tech team. He was moved to limn it thus:
Outlined against a blue, gray October sky the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as famine, pestilence, destruction and death. These are only aliases. Their real names are: Jorgensen, Olesson, Malmqvist and Soderberg. But the greatest of these, the most feared, is Jorgensen, for it is he whose miraculous heaves send slung stalk skywards in slow spiral, disappearing out of sight into the lowering clouds, there to mock the Gods themselves....
I carry the clipping, now crumbling with age, with me still.

We played in moleskin and leather in those days. Real men to the core, we eschewed the helmets and sissifying pads that have ruined the Glorious Game for succeeding generations -- those softened and denatured descendants of the hardy North Woods pioneers who imported the game from their native Småland. I scoff at modesty, and proudly point out that ours was the Dead-Stalk Era, when the equipment suppliers of the day would let their freshly harvested rhubarb stalks hang for three weeks in their barns, acquiring an inimitable elasticity and heft. We had a saying in those days: "Hang your 'barb for three weeks/Sling like the Greeks." (It was a bit puzzling, this saying of ours, as nobody in Crow-Wing County had ever seen a Grecian 'barb-slinger, but it was taken as read that they must have flung their rhubarb a good long way.)

Oh, how I pine for the gamey odor of well-hung rhubarb, and of the neat's-foot oil with which we softened our throwing palms! The players of today, spoiled by fresh, unhung rhubarb stalks -- we oldtimers dismiss them as "jackrabbit stalks" -- have no appreciation for it. They might as well be slinging celery-shaped sticks of frozen butter, for all they know of the ways of rhubarb!

How the grand sport has become a cruel parody of itself, an exhibition put on by hoodlums and mountebanks for yokels and rubes at country fairs and carnival midways! Scorn! Scorn! Scorn! And fiddle-faddle!

Let me show you how we did it. Gimme that stalk! You stand about three feet from the line, see, facing away, and -- hey! Where are you going! Get back here!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Honoring Kos

I want to call your attention to a temporary but important addition to the Friendly Confines: that handsome orange number over there in the left column over that Koufax Trophy I made for myself.

The progressive Drum Major think tank is awarding 2006 Drum Major for Justice Award to Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos next month in New York City. Also being honored are Anna Burger of the Change to Win Labor Federation and jazz cat Wynton Marsalis.

Moulitsas, coauthor of Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics, richly deserves the honor for having inspired countless pinko bloggers to stop whining and start pounding keyboards to effect change. Daily Kos is what I read with my coffee every day, and I bet the same's true for you.

Come on out on June 22 to help honor Kos. Details are here.

If you'd like to help spread the word, Tom Watson has the info.

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

What Is There Is a Prayer

You'd have to have been living under a rock this last week to have missed the blogspherical uproar over the publication of the list of "Top 50 Conservative Songs," compiled by John J. Miller at The National Review. Amanda, Lance, Blue Girl and Kevin have all posted amusingly on it, and there's no need to add my own loud braying to the collective horse-laugh -- save to say that there are peabrains in this world who wouldn't know irony if it came up and bit them on their beDockered asses.

Tom Watson has also commented on it, and from his post there comes this little gem: Pete Townshend got wind of this list, and the appearance of his "Won't Get Fooled Again" at the top of it, and responded with a lovely little treatise on the dangers inherent in the interpretation of songs:
I am just a song-writer. The actions I carry out are my own, and are usually private until some digger-after-dirt questions my methods. What I write is interpreted, first of all by Roger Daltrey. Won't Get Fooled Again - then - was a song that pleaded '….leave me alone with my family to live my life, so I can work for change in my own way….'. But when Roger Daltrey screamed as though his heart was being torn out in the closing moments of the song, it became something more to so many people. And I must live with that. In the film Summer of Sam the song is used to portray white-boy 'street' idiocy; a kind of fascist absurdity, men swinging their arms over air-guitars and smashing up furniture. Spike Lee told my manager that '…he deeply understood Who music….'. What he understood was what he himself - like so many others - had made it. He saw an outrage and frustration, even a judgment or empty indictment in the song that wasn't there. What is there is a prayer.